Heideggerian city:
Postmodernism and Sustainability


Sustainable Design Paper (Individual)

Spring 2017, Course: Society, Nature, and Technology

Professor Dr. Steven Moore, The University of Texas at Austin



Modernism had been innovative, but paradoxically had had conservative nature. As it had started from skepticism about an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality and emphasis on the importance of individual experience, it still put emphasis on universality including myth and tradition instead of personality. In the age of modernism, there were masterpieces of Pablo Picasso, Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, and James Joyce, but modernism had been evaluated as being isolated from the general public.

In contemporary architecture, ‘postmodernism’ had started from opposing to ‘modernism’, which was the movement representing simple geometrical patterns’ buildings. Postmodernism focused on self-referentiality, pluralism, and epistemological and moral relativism while denying absolute idea.


A place in urban city and public space

According to Heidegger, the place in urban fabric can be interpreted as the space with time that social memory would be able to occur. Especially, contemporary people have been used to putting a high value on their own place which was related to their experiences. The ‘place’ might be an individual room or open public space in urban city, which is relevant to enormous kinds of social relationship and natural environments.[1]

For a healthy building culture, from the perspective of Dreyfus interpreting Heidegger’s thinking, we should not deny serious problems from technology but be able to solve by appropriate action. Heidegger’s language, which dealt with distinction between technological understanding of being and technological devices, might be the essential key to make urban places sustainable and healthy for the public. Not just focusing on calculative thinking but conducting with meditative thinking, it would bring urban cities’ continuity out.

As looking into a public space in urban fabric with Heideggerian perspective, it might be a solution to give opportunities to enhance revitalization to urban lives. Because the public space is an open space that is actually accessible to people, it is a gathering place that helps to promote social relationship and a sense of community. Roads, plazas, parks, public squares, marketplaces, public greens, and waterfront are typically considered public space. To a limited extent, government buildings like public libraries and private buildings that affect to pedestrians can also be considered as public spaces.

In the past, with technology, there had been unplanned land development without humanity, which had considered cars and infrastructure. However, many people today significantly recognize benefits of green space that can improve human health, environmental health, and have economic values. For instance, the most ‘livable’ cities – and some of the world’s most famous cities – are as known for their open space as they are for their culture. Hyde Park in London, Central Park in New York, Phoenix Park in Dublin, all of them have attractions to their own neighborhoods and also visitors.

To be specific, there are numerous health benefits related to access to green public space and parks. It is able to has the potential to improve people’s physical activities, social benefits and reduce stress levels. The urban green space also contributes to environmental benefits that can promote natural landscapes for humans, wildlife and plants in urban fabric. An approach to make urban cities with meditative thinking can improve not only quality of life but also comfortable place.


[1] Kenneth Frampton, “On Reading Heidegger,” in Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory, 1965-1995, Kate Nesbitt, ed., (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), 442-46.


Heideggerian city and redevelopment of urban fabric for revitalization

How can we make an ecological and sustainable city? Today, some developers tend to build more architectures that are only evaluated by their financial values. The number of new commercial buildings increases rapidly because those are regarded as tremendous values in the future. As our cities grow, governments highly focus on developing their cities to be filled with many towers, which has many floors related to money directly, without open spaces. However, the open spaces like parks or public spaces should be maintained and need to be built in our cities because these places are beneficial for us to enrich our lives in a positive way. There are some examples that well-made parks give advantages to our society and individuals. In New York city, there are two big parks; Central Park and the High Line Park. The parks play the essential roles of giving places for their physical health, being able to make their social relationships, and improving New York’s economy.

The Central park gives people spaces for taking rest and getting exercise. Being in the parks is a good way to relieve stress and keep healthy. Because people are under a lot of pressure in their lives, they need to get rid of their stress. By taking a rest and getting exercise in the park, they can forget about their stress and be refreshed. Consequently, when they return to work, they can work much more efficiently. Looking over trees, people are able to see many tall buildings but Central Park was so silence that it makes people concentrate on natural environments.

The High Line Park has significantly made it possible for Manhattan to walkable and ecological city. Its length is good enough to walk and run, also it gives people beautiful scenes which would be like flying between buildings. Rainey[2] announced that tourists would be able to walk all the way from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street because of the opening of the High Line ate the Rail Yard; it was the project’s original goal that changed the derelict elevated line to a beautiful oasis and peaceful place to enjoying for all, and whole length of the High Line is continuing 22 city blocks, uninterrupted, 30 feet in the air, with expansive scenes of New York City and the Hudson River.

Moreover, the two public parks help them improving their social relationships. To be specific, there were many meetings in there, like formal conferences and individual meetings. As cities are growing more and more with technology, the importance of social relationships increases simultaneously. In our society, people need to make friends and colleagues in various fields, however, meeting spaces are not good enough to make our social relationships with others because of thoughtless developments. The High Line park was built for the public. According to the New York Times in 2002, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board finally approved the New York city’s proposed plan for the High Line; transforming an abandoned railroad into an urban park, even if it was called “hulking structure” and had been forced to be removed again and again. The High Line Park as a public space gives them many places to talking about many subjects. Made by specific technology with nature, the High Line Park, it has given not only a place to walk, share information, and meet with others, but also ecological functional space for sustainable city. Central Park and the High Line Park have given good influences on people and natural environments. They offer not only giving places for physical health and social relationships but improving economic activities for New York city.


An ideology has always been changing and its value also has been evaluated differently like changes of trends. Heideggerian ‘meditative thinking’ and postmodernism approach to urban projects are significant for us to be able to understand duplicity of technology. Throughout observing the Central Park and the High Line project in New York city with Heideggerian language, we can recognize what is our role for revitalizing our inner city from the product of industrialization with sustainable design strategies. As reproducing and regenerating our sustainable society, we would be harmony with technology, nature, and society.


[2] John Rainey, “New York’s High Line Park: An Example of Successful Economic Development,” Leading EDGE newsletter, (2014): 1-3. http://greenplayllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Highline.pdf




Dreyfus, Hubert L. “Heidegger on Gaining a Free Relation to Technology.” In Technology and the Politics of Knowledge, Andrew Feenberg and Alastair Hannay, Eds. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Frampton, Kenneth. “On Reading Heidegger.” In Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory, 1965-1995, Kate Nesbitt, ed. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.

Heidegger, Martin. “Building Dwelling Thinking.” In Poetry, Language, Thought; translated and introduced by Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” In the Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.

Rainey, John. “New York’s High Line Park: An Example of Successful Economic Development.” Leading EDGE newsletter, (2014). http://greenplayllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Highline.pdf

Reid, Robert L. "New York's 'High Line' Railroad to Become an Elevated Park." Civil Engineering 76, no. 7 (July 2006): 14-18. Business Source Alumni Edition, EBSCOhost (08857024).

Schwarz, Dietrich. “What is sustainability?” http://www.schwarz-architekten.com/en/theory/philosophy-vision-of-sustainability.html.

Smith, Gregory Bruce. “Heidegger, technology and postmodernity.” The Social Science Journal 28, no.3 (1991): 369-89.



All rights reserved by Donghwan Kim